See What He Sees

Portrait of a Pine Cone

Portrait of a Pine Cone

FLAGSTAFF, AZ—When I got serious about taking photos, I did what a lot of serious photography students do: I found a photographer whose work I loved and blatantly tried to copy his style.

My hero was Harry Callahan (no, not that Harry Callahan).

But here’s the thing about photography—about any art form for that matter (I include spirituality here): Once you get the theory down—once you’ve learned the techniques—you need to learn how to see.

For a photographer, you need to learn how to see color and shape and texture and negative space. For a musician, you need to learn how to see tone and rhythm and pauses and flow. For the spiritual, you need to learn how to see Love and Light and Emptiness and the Divine.

When I started trying to copy Callahan, I wasn’t trying to copy his technique—I was already well versed in photography theory at that point—no, what I was trying to do was to learn to see how Callahan sees. I wanted to see what Callahan saw before he took those photos.

There’s a saying in Zen that goes something like this, “Don’t try to be like the sages of old, try to see what they saw.”

Once you get your spiritual technique down, try to see through all the mental boundaries. Try to see the music behind it all—the tempo and rhythm and pauses. Try to see the Archetype of Everything.

Once you get the theory down, pull away all self-contraction and open your eyes to the Love and the Light and the Emptiness and the Divine.

And in no time at all, you’ll become one with your art.

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3 thoughts on “See What He Sees

  1. I just realized what it is that your photographs do for me….they elicit a physical reaction. When I looked at the pine comb, it requested that I look again, deeper into the essence behind the visual. Then something happened… I breathed.

  2. “Don’t try to be like the sages of old, try to see what they saw.”

    so true. most seem to think that enlightenment behaves a certain way, but it has nothing to do with behavior.

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